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Military Physician Assistant


Description

During naval campaigns, when the military sends out hundreds of soldiers on boats for months at a time, illness can spread quickly on a boat. And the flu isn't something people want their military forces suffering through during a campaign.

Luckily, the military trains and employs physician assistants. These highly trained individuals are just a step below physicians. Physician assistants can give physical exams, obtain medical histories, order laboratory tests, x-rays, and other procedures, and can perform simple surgery, prescribe medication, and diagnose patients suffering from any number of ailments. The major difference between physician assistants and physicians is that the assistants have less training, both academic and on-the-job, so a physician assistant will refer severely ill patients, or patients with problem they can't identify or treat, to a physician.

The physicians are never far away. Physician assistants have supervisors, who act as mentors and guides for the assistants. The assistant can contact the supervisor over the phone, or through faxes and emails, if advice is sought.

However, an assistant can't simply refer every patient or question that seems a little difficult to the supervisor. Because the assistant is usually in remote locations, they must have a lot of self-confidence and trust in themselves. Because when influenza (or worse) hits that boat, it's up to the physician assistant to help the soldiers get back on their feet.

The job can take physician assistants all over the world. The military travels the globe, but the opportunities don't stop there. Physician assistants can also get jobs with mining companies and oil companies, and find work in remote locations where primary resources are harvested.

Physician assistants work in small teams of health care workers. They have a stressful, important role in the military. They are often one of the only medical practitioners for thousands of miles, so their desire to help others, their love of science, and their devotion to good health care can all come to play during this interesting and exciting career.
 
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  Interests and Skills  
Interested in working as a physician assistant? These individuals should be strong, both physically and emotionally. They need to be caring, empathetic, and determined to help people. They also need to feel comfortable around the very ill, as well as the severely wounded. They should be good at making independent decisions, but also feel comfortable taking advice from others. Military physician assistants tend to be good listeners, as well as a good communicators, and are clean, neat, and organized. They need to be sensitive to the needs of people from a variety of backgrounds, and be comfortable with the idea of a military life.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Contact supervisor when necessary
  • Conduct physical exams
  • Diagnose and treat illnesses
  • Order and read tests
  • Assist in surgery
  • Write prescriptions
  • The typical day for a physician assistant will involve seeing a lot of patients, and conducting routine exams and tests, as well as reacting to emergency situations, like accidents or wounds. They will also report any unusual or difficult cases to supervisory medical staff, either within their community or outside their community. A good physician assistant can recognize when a problem extends beyond their area of expertise. Physician assistants travel all over the world, to wherever the military is off to, and meet a wide range of people, from foreign military representatives to indigenous citizens.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Physician assistants are not licensed to set up independent practice, nor are they allowed to work in hospitals or clinics. However, physician assistants can work in military hospitals, on boats and with international military missions. Outside of the military, physician assistants find work with oil companies and mining companies, practicing on site with the workers.
  • Whether they are with the military or mining and oil companies, the physician assistants often work in less than desirable conditions. They may work in cramped quarters, tents, or war-torn communities. They will work long hours if those under their care fall ill. They usually work in a team of two or more, and report when necessary to a supervising physician.

  Long Term Career Potential  
With additional education and training, a physician assistant may choose to pursue a career as a physician. They may also choose to apply their knowledge and experience to other careers within the health care field such as paramedics, first aid instruction, or nursing.
 

  Educational Paths  
Physician assistants are trained through military medical schools. This means they must first complete basic training, and begin working as a medical assistant, moving up the ranks until they can train to become a physician assistant. They may have to wait up to 10 years to begin this training.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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